By Alice Cannet
New research shows that £700 million is paid each year to fund the UK's failing farming system, which continuously strains the environment, a leading environmental group has claimed.
The report 'Feeding the Beast', released today by Friends of the Earth (FOE), describes how EU money invested in factory farms is contributing to clearing rainforests.
EU funds propping up factory farms increases the demand for imported animal feed from South American plantation created by wiping out rainforests, the report indicates.
The report calls for EU money to be allocated to projects which benefit the environment in the light of sustainable development and fair competition.
It also calls on ministers to overhaul the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provides support and funding to the EU agricultural sector.
FOE would like to see the money used to develop home-grown animal feed to replace the imported feed and to save small farms which is unlikely unless the CAP changes dramatically.
The CAP provide funds accounting for almost half of the EU's total budget for the agricultural sector and is seen by FOE as highly influential for farming policies.
The CAP funds are awarded in such a way that it encourages intensive and superfluous production from large farms and prejudice smaller-scale, fairer farming projects, FOE claims.
FOE outline in their report the long-term changes to the CAP which, if implemented, would alter the farming system significantly.
These include new measures to regulate the market in order to relieve some of the pressure which drives production at the expense of the environment, social welfare and ethical standards.
The reformed CAP would also need to deliver measures to match sustainable production with reduced demand for meat and dairy through awareness-raising programmes and public procurement policy.
Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins said: "Small farms are losing out to big business factory farming - the killer link in a hidden chain that connects the food on our plates to climate change and rainforest destruction.
"Cash-strapped families have no idea that millions of pounds of their money is being spent on an industry that contributes more to climate change than all the planes, cars and lorries on the planet.
"The government must stop bucking around with taxpayers' money and use our money to support planet-friendly farming for good meat and dairy for families in Britain."
The report is launched as part of the new FOE's Food Chain Campaign which seeks to protect small farms and prevent the decline of the sector which currently sees 4,000 jobs lost every year.